The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Wednesday directed the state police to file cases against senior Congress leader Kamal Nath and Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar for allegedly violating coronavirus-related protocols at their election meetings earlier this month, NDTV reported.

The court asked district magistrates in Gwalior and Datia to ensure the registration of first information reports in the matter.

A division bench of Gwalior told Advocate General Purshendra Kaurav to report compliance on the matter at the next hearing on October 23. The court also asked magistrates of all nine districts within its jurisdiction not to give permission to any candidate or political party for holding public gatherings unless they could prove that a virtual rally was not possible.

“The decision of the district magistrate to permit any political party to conduct physical congregation shall become effective only after the Election Commission of India approves it in writing,” the court ruled, according to The Times of India.

Besides this, the court said an election rally can take place only after the party or candidate deposits enough money to purchase twice the number of masks and sanitisers as people expected at the event. The candidate has to file an undertaking on an affidavit that he shall be personally liable to distribute masks and sanitizers to all members of the congregation before it starts, the High Court said.

“Virtual election campaign, with the aid of electronic means, is certainly more expensive than holding a physical meeting but in the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic which is at its peak in our country, it is time for candidates to realise and adopt extraordinary means to conduct election campaigns virtually,” the judges said.

Bye-polls for 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh will be held on November 3. The results will be declared on November 10.

Nath, a former chief minister of the state, is already in the eye of a controversy after he referred to Bharatiya Janata Party candidate for the Dabra bye-polls, Imarti Devi, as an “item”. The Congress leader claimed he did that because he forgot Devi’s name.

The Election Commission of India on Wednesday issued a notice to Nath for his remarks and asked him to respond within 48 hours. The poll body cited the Model Code of Conduct and said that no party should indulge in activities that create tension between the people of different castes and communities